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Got the Blues? PCOS and Depression

Since starting PCOS Diet Support, I have had the privilege of connecting with so many women with PCOS, all of them with stories different to my own, but with so many common threads. One of the topics that seems to keep raising is head is “PCOS and Depression”. So, I thought that this week we could tackle the topic of Depression and work out if a PCOS diet can also help with this more hidden and sneaky symptom.
Before we all get too depressed (excuse the pun!) with this topic, let me suggest a cup of spearmint tea to raise your spirits and lower your testosterone. We are going to find the silver lining so bear with me.

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As you may know, I went off birth control in 2009 in the hopes of conceiving. For at least 4 or 5 months after stopping the pill and before I was diagnosed, I went into a deep depression. There was no colour to my days and I was living in survival mode, going through the motions from one day to the next. My marriage started to suffer as I didn’t find any joy in my marriage, my family or my work.

Before I was diagnosed with PCOS, I went into a deep depression.

I didn’t even realize that I felt as bad as I did. Things finally reached breaking point and I needed some answers. That’s when my research began. As I investigated PCOS further, I knew that I was depressed and I needed help. I will never forget that feeling of hopelessness and despair.

Being diagnosed with PCOS, although devastating, also gave me an action plan. I knew the nature of the beast and I could then find the best means for controlling it. As I made diet and lifestyle changes, my mood began to improve and stabilize. Don’t get me wrong, I still sometimes wake up irritable (and by irritable, I mean I can have a super short fuse, especially with hubby – he deserves a medal! )for no reason but those days are few and far between now.

Let’s have a look at some the research about PCOS and Depression.


It seems that there is a strong link between androgen excess, insulin resistance and depression. One study found that women who suffer the symptoms of androgen excess (which are pretty much the symptoms of PCOS) are more likely to struggle with depression than women without PCOS. (1) They also found that carbohydrate craving, excess hair and weight gain impact on our well-being and interfere with daily life – I could have told them that!

Health2Another article I thought was really interesting explores the link between depression and insulin resistance. (2) We know that PCOS is primarily thought to be an endocrine disorder with irregularities in insulin and carbohydrate processing. Not all women with PCOS are insulin resistant but many of us are. So, if you do have insulin resistance, you are also more likely to suffer from depression or mood disorders.

So, the bottom line is that if you are suffering from depression with PCOS, you are not alone and it is not all in your head. Depression is another facet to this multi-faceted syndrome.

Now that we’ve established that depression in indeed linked to PCOS, let’s look at how we kick it in the butt so that we can live the life of joy, colour and sunshine we are meant to live.

Before getting into specifics, I want to share with you a story of a woman who suffered from severe depression. She also had untreated PCOS. She was on anti-depressants for a year and saw little improvement in her mood. Her mood only normalized when her PCOS was treated and she remained stable even when she stopped taking anti-depressants.

The moral of the story is that it is important to treat your PCOS. I’m not saying that you should not take anti-depressants if you are depressed – you need to be led by your doctor (remember that I am not a doctor and you need to seek medical help if you are suffering from depression). I am saying that treating your PCOS may hold an invaluable key to overcoming your depression.

Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes is often recommended as the first course of treatment in the management of PCOS. By lifestyle changes, we often refer to a change in diet and more regular exercise. Well, lifestyle changes have also shown to have a significant improvement on mood and depression in women with PCOS. One study found that if women followed a PCOS diet and exercised, they would see a significant improvement in their mood as well as other symptoms of PCOS (4)


There it is again! Somehow diet seems to be the foundation of any sort of intervention! Well, you see, if we can lower insulin levels and improve insulin sensitivity; we should be able to improve androgen levels. This will lead to improvement in all of our PCOS symptoms, including depression.

Here’s another thing you may find interesting: recent research has shown that following a low carb, high protein (LCHP) diet improves mood significantly more than following a low protein, high carb (LPHC) diet (5) The researches divided women in to two groups, one following LPHC diet and the other following a LCHP diet. The women followed the diet for 16 weeks. What is key here is that neither group lost weight so improvement in their mood wasn’t down to that. Maybe it had to do with the fact that insulin levels tend to be lower and more manageable on a high protein, low carb diet?


pcos and depression supplementsI seem to keep coming back to the same supplements and I’m not going to rehash them here. Let’s just summarise:

Omega 3 – has been shown to lower testosterone in women with PCOS and improved testosterone levels = improved mood.
Inositol – Important for the metabolism of glucose and women have shown improve insulin sensitivity and decrease in free testosterone levels.

Vitamin D – The sunshine vitamin is important in insulin sensitivity and mood. (6)

Along with the supplements mentioned above, my supplement regime also includes Calcium, folic acid and chromium.

I have to say that since eating a good PCOS diet and taking regular supplements, I don’t battle depression the way that I once used to and my mood is much more stable. I still need to work on doing more exercise to improve my PCOS symptoms even more.

If you are suffering from PCOS and depression, it really may be worth your while changing your diet and making sure you’re doing some exercise, as well as taking your supplements. It is possible to find your spring in your step and see colour in your days!

If you have suffered from depression, like I have, and have managed to overcome it, I’d love to hear what you did that worked for you. As always, just leave me a comment below!

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Tarryn Poulton

Tarryn Poulton

Tarryn Poulton is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and PCOS expert who has been a leader in the online PCOS space for over 8 years. Tarryn has the support of leading clinicians from around the world who support her scientific approach to understanding and talking about PCOS this includes all medical journals and ongoing research. You can read more about Tarryn and the team here.

115 Responses

115 Responses

  1. Thanks for this great article on the link between depression and PCOS, Tarryn. I had made the link between exercise improving my mood, but never thought about how my PCOS also affects my mental health.

  2. Hi,
    Everyone I have pcos too diagnosed when I was 18 knew something was wrong as I was a late bloomer (I was 13) sisters were 11, my periods eventually scattered then stopped had surgery to remove cysts at 18 then became regular then stopped again, I was with my partner now ex partner for 4 years /4 months we went to gynaecologist then ivf and I got my letrazole all he had to do was spoof in a cup and wouldn’t follow through anyway we split 3 months ago i left him as he led me on to believe he wanted kids but too chicken to tell me as my mood swings are bad I have depression since I was 19 I’m now 31 ever since I got diagnosed I feel like anything baby related sets me into a sad/ angry at my pcos spiral and I’m yearning to become a mum more now than before it’s very hard as doctors will not take me seriously when I tell them I have ovary pain I was 118kg at one point when I was living with my then partner I’m now 96kg first time in 12 years

    1. Hi Samantha,
      I was diagnosed at age 19 with PCOS. I have side pains when I am ovulating (I learned that from my doctor and hope that helps). The mood swings are the worse along with the depression. I have been trying to cope but after 16 years of the on and off again mood swings and depression I just want it to stop (sigh). I understand how you feel as I was once where you were. Your time will come and you will be a great mother.

  3. Currently suffering terribly with depression from pcos. I had surgery to remove endometriosis over a year ago and the pcos settled somewhat until the last couple of months. This month has by far been the worst with pain, depression and anxiety, and I was quite literally praying for death at the thought of enduring this pain and misery every month for the rest of my life. I’m going to try my best to lose weight this month to see if it gives me any relief but as I have barely lost anything even when exercising at least once a day and following a LCHP diet, I’m very apprehensive that it’ll make a difference.
    I’m so exhausted from the vicious circle of pcos and feeling so sad and hopeless all the time.

  4. I was diagnosed with PCOS finally at age 17, after having tests done since I was 13 years old because of my extremely irregular and heavy periods. I luckily don’t have absolutely any of the physical symptoms except for the multiple cysts on my ovaries, but that is why it took so long to be diagnosed properly. My hormone levels are very off, testosterone high, I don’t ovulate, etc. My doctor told me at age 17, I may not every conceive because of my inability to ovulate due to my hormonal imbalance. I know there’s been success stories, and although I wasn’t even thinking about that at age 17, my heart dropped. I’m now 26 & still not ready for a baby, but I feel like I will be in the next few years and the thought haunts me. Ever since I was diagnosed, I always had periods of sadness i’d go through thinking about the struggle i’ll one day have to try and have a baby. I try not to think about it but it just taunts me every few months. Anyone else have this issue?

    1. Girl…. yes!!!! Right here.

      I’m 26 too and not ready for children or even seeing someone to have that possibility anytime soon but I think about it all the time. Everytime I am late for my period (which right now is about 3 months) I get sad when I see a negative even though I know I’m not ready right now. I can tell something is wrong and I have a problem.

    2. I am 63 years old but gave birth to two babies(at age 29 and then 34) although I have PCOS. I had difficulty conceiving. They started with clomiphene but quickly jumped me to Pergonal. I had to have it shipped down to my region on ice and then got the shots before work each day of the regimen. I had terribly erratic temperature charts. No normal ovulation. At one point, I had overstimulated ovaries and swelled up looking like I was 6 months pregnant! I’m lucky my ovaries didn’t rupture.

      Eventually, , my brother gave me a book about infertility which discussed all the possible causes of it. I realized, as I read, that they hadn’t tried the full program of clomiphene. They didn’t give me the highest dose but jumped me up to the heavy stuff! I left the specialist I’d been seeing, went back to my regular doctor and asked to try a higher dose of clomiphene. Two months later I was pregnant! I just needed more of a hormonal jump-start than I’d originally gotten–not the heavy doses of Pergonal.

      All this to say, read and educate yourself. Don’t just blindly follow a doctor. If I hadn’t read the book my brother gave me, I wouldn’t have known to go back to Clomiphene and give it another try.

  5. I started searching for ways to lighten my inner thighs and i got here. Funny right? One of the causes of dark inner thighs and groin is hormonal imbalance and then, I found “PCOS” which sounds familiar.

    I searched for my old ultrasound result that I tested 2 years ago, I was 19 years old and there I found it. I didn’t really know what it really. My doctor just explained to me that my ovaries are slow to ovulate. That’s why I had 6 mos. with out period and it scared my mother because we have history of ovarian cancer.

    Few months after the diagnosis, I stopped coming by the doctor because the medicine is quite expensive and i thought my period would get normal eventually. After a few months again, I was diagnosed with depression.

    It’s like a year after my diagnosis of depression and just until now that I know that PCOS and depression have a connection. Every things came clear. Im still not clear of depression I say but at least I now know one of its causes and might able to fix it.

    So im thanking my dark groin for making me find ways to lighten them lol and thank YOU for this article. For telling me it’s normal and it’s true that they are connected. For shedding some light on my condition

    1. Btw, i am not obese. I dont really have acne problems. But i am really hairy, face and body and I just accepted them as they are. I am always on irregular periods until now. Tho there are times that they came one month (or close enough) in between. I think exercise really helps and eating healthy. Unfortunately, my course and future job environment makes me stress all the time, not sleeping on time and i think that’s a big factor for PCOS.

  6. I have recently been diagnosed with PCOS (a few weeks ago) at the age of 27. I have always had irregular periods and gained about 2 stone very quickly just over a year ago. Since then, I have been eating very healthily on and off. I would lose motivation when I didn’t see any weight loss, which has been very hard for me. I have since lost around 10 pounds but cannot shift anymore. After my period stopped completely around 6 months ago I knew something was really wrong, and that is when I was finally told I have PCOS, just a few weeks ago.

    The doctor then put me on Metformin, which hasn’t caused any weight loss for me so far, but I am not eating that healthily, as the metformin is making me feel sickly and very emotional. I think from reading this post I will try to go it alone without the metformin and really work on eating well and exercising daily. I really find it hard to keep motivated, especially after finding out I have PCOS. It’s kind of like I feel more depressed than ever knowing that PCOS is something that controls me and not even metformin is making me feel any better (just worse currently)

    It is a huge relief to know that diet and exercise can help, and after I have gained weight in the past (without knowing it was because of PCOS) I have been able to lose it with healthy eating and exercise. It just seems like this time the weight won’t budge. I am a very positive person and I am always working on ways to help myself feel better and live a healthy life physically and mentally, it just feels like this year of weight gain and now the pcos diagnosis, I am hopeless.

    I am determined to find something to help me and thank you for the motivation, as I want to feel happy with my body and my mind and I hope diet and exercise and suppliments can do this for me.

  7. I have been diagnosed with PCOS for about a year and a half and have been trying for babies for about 2 years. I just found out I’m pregnant about a week ago and I was crazy excited and super happy for basically just that day. I’m about 8 weeks along! Don’t get me wrong, I definitely feel like I have been waiting for an eternity to get a chance to be a mom, but I’ve been feeling like I’ve been sliding into a depression even before I became pregnant. I can’t get this heavy feeling off my chest and I feel like I can’t enjoy anything anymore. After I found out I was pregnant is when I think this feeling got worse. I’ve been isolating myself all week besides work and constantly cry when I’m alone. I never used to be this person that sulks alone. I was pepy and positive and loved everything and everyone around me. Now I feel like I’m pushing my partner away and can only find happiness when I watch True Blood and stuff my face. I want to feel normal again and be able to soak up every bit of this pregnancy I can especially after wanting this for so long. I definitely don’t want to still feel this way when baby comes. Have any of you been through something like this? Have you been able to over come the depression while pregnant? I don’t want to add to all the complications that PCOS already gives me during pregnancy, but I also can’t seem to just switch this feeling off. Please, any advise or words of wisdom are welcome!

    1. I was diagnosed 10 years ago with PCOS and told I might never conceive. When I finally got pregnant this over whelming feeling of doom struck me down cold, but I knew the nature of the beast that is PCOS had always had a major effect on my moods, throw pregnancy hormones into the cocktail and well it just wasn’t all giddy happy days for a little while. I found my mood improved after a couple of months and I started to feel better about it all, but I really had to watch my diet and weight gain. Cutting out sugar, less carbs, and hormone free dairy/meat really help my depression and other symptoms, but you have to keep it up. I didn’t after the baby was born and suffered for it greatly for several months. Just watch your diet, learn to let certain things go, excercise (start walking, or swimming) and it will get better. I know it’s easy to say and hard to do, but I have been there and survived. If the day just ever seems to much just start breaking everything down into smaller tasks and do what you can, but just don’t stop living. You can do it, you have too, not just for your baby, but for yourself. You got this Momma!

    2. Hi,
      I know how you feel , I have PCOS also , and when told I had That I really didn’t know what came with it, all I knew was that I wasn’t able to get pregnant until I went on clomid, once I got pregnant I was very happy, but I had always suffered with mood swings , and depression , a doctor even diagnosed me with bipolar depression. I really don’t know if it’s really the condition of PCOS or not , but I hate it , and it’s true , I never know how I am going to wake up that morning. Anyways , when I became pregnant I was always in a bad mood, and didn’t enjoy anything, I was more irritable with customers at work. Once i gave birth, I couldn’t lose the weight , I just had more extra skin and fat , so that made me more depressed. It’s awful and not diet nor exercise has helped anything with it.

    3. I feel this exact same way right now . I just recently found out I have this and I’m having surgery soon to get some removed because of the size I feel miserable and crying all the time and very sensitive and I feel like nobody understands and I feel like my Partner is so insensitive but then again idk if I’m just taking everything so personable right night now but I have never been a very sensitive person but lately I’ve been feeling just like this just minus being pregnant

  8. Hello everyone , I hope you don’t mind me joining in as I’m in the same situation as a lot of you, after not having periods for almost a year, which I think is due to the one morning after pill I had to have I might add, I was diagnosed with pcos, however like a lot of you I do not have the symptoms, i am a size 6-8 , 5 ft 1 18 year old, I have no excess hair, long thick hair , an odd breakout on my chin around that time of the month but no acne, regular periods now, so I really don’t know whether the diagnosis was wrong or what but do I really have pcos? Or just poly cystic ovaries and not the syndrome? I’m so confused and I think I’m going to go for a second opinion , any feedback would be appreciated! Please help! Good luck everyone , thanks x

  9. I was first told I might have PCOS over a year ago, but wasn’t actually diagnosed until a few months ago (I’m 25). I really wish it hadn’t taken so long- the first endocrinologist I saw said I didn’t have it and I just accepted that. I’d recommend getting a second opinion if you feel like your doctor isn’t taking your symptoms seriously. Looking back, I think the first endocrinologist I saw dismissed me simply because I am not overweight and have regular (although heavy) periods. There’s also not a consensus on how PCOS is diagnosed- the first doctor said I’d have to have cysts on my ovaries to be diagnosed, my current doctor diagnosed me from my lab work and she said that even if I didn’t have cysts, that doesn’t mean I don’t have PCOS.

    My symptoms are depression, anxiety, excessive facial hair, and some acne. Although I’m not overweight, I’ve struggled with a low appetite for the last few years and my eating habits are not good as a result: going too long without eating, not eating enough, eating junk foods because it’s all I can make myself eat.

    The depression and anxiety are the worst for me. I’ve been struggling with it for the last decade and the only thing that has helped in all that time is my current medication (which I only started about 3 years ago) and that still doesn’t help enough. It probably doesn’t help that I’m grieving- my fiance left me recently- but I’ve experienced grief and depression simultaneously before and I feel like I can tell the difference (although grief certainly exacerbates depression).

    It feels like nothing helps. I never noticed any improvement from the times I’ve exercised and ate well (I was running 15 miles a week when I first became seriously depressed). I’ve tried so many drugs. I’ve seen various therapists and yet have never felt any improvement in my depression or anxiety and it drives me crazy that when I tell doctors this (or anyone, really) they just patronize me saying that I’m not open minded enough, I’m not trying hard enough or that I’m just not doing the right kind of therapy (and yet no doctor has been able to tell me what kind of therapy I should be doing).

    I’m on metformin now to lower my testosterone. I don’t know if I’ve been on it long enough to feel better yet, but I still feel awful. It’s so hard to function that I’m just scraping by. And the older I get, the more self-conscious I feel about my life. Depression has stolen so much from me; I would have accomplished so much more by now, would have enjoyed parts of my life that are over now.

    I am worried about having kids. I didn’t think I wanted kids until I met my now ex-fiance and realized I did want to have a family with her. Maybe if we were still engaged I wouldn’t be so worried- then at least I knew we’d want to start trying in a few years from now. But being single now, I’m scared that by the time I meet someone I want to have kids with, it’ll be too late.

    I do want to start exercising (I would like to run a 5k again) and maybe try a PCOS diet, but admittedly I’m not optimistic about it helping with my mood. For those who do follow some kind of PCOS diet, do you feel like it helps with your mood or anxiety? It sounds like a lot of people follow a PCOS diet because they’re overweight or are insulin resistant (I’m not either), and not so much for their mood.

    1. Hi kj,

      I share your pain. I realized recently, that I was somewhat diagnosed with PCOS at 15, when I was treated for acne. My blood tests kept coming back with high testosterone levels. The dermatologist told me I had hyperandrogenism, but only treated that facet of the issue.

      Fast forward 10 years later, and I was being treated for depression, gaining weight and dealing with acne again. Luckily that was when I met my husband, and he didn’t care about those issues. I was only really diagnosed by my OBGYN, when I had trouble getting pregnant two years later at 27. I got pregnant a year later, and I had to take Metformin to get pregnant.

      Don’t give up. I’ve found the only dieting that works for me is a PCOS diet, or a primal diet, or a paleo diet, and they all have similar baselines. They deal with the insulin response. Try them all. Give each diet at least 4 weeks to work. Tackle them one at a time, and when you find something that works, stick with it.

      The same is true for therapy and anti-depressants. Talk to your doctors…all of them. Ask your endocrinologist to share your records with your OBGYN/midwife, and your primary family doctor. Any one of them should be able to be your advocate and help you work through this. All of those opinions and opportunities to learn more will eventually click.

      Be patient with yourself, and have some compassion for yourself if you can. I promise you that you have time to get everything you want out of life.

    2. Hi KJ,

      Just wanted to say my symptoms and experience with PCOS are similar to yours. I was diagnosed last year at 24. No cysts, but awful excess hair, acne, irregular periods and my tests showed my LH:FSH ratios were out of balance. I had been on different oral contraceptives but always quit them since they messed up my mood so much. My Dr. prescribed me yet another hormone contraceptive since the tests did not show any insulin or glucose abnormalities (so apparently no need for metformin). I didn’t full the script. Not sure where to go if I don’t want to take hormones…

      I also struggle with anxiety and depression, especially right before my period decides to arrive. I was told that I should take advantage of DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) to help regulate my moods. The class I’ve been part of has been helpful, but it still doesn’t address the underlying PCOS, just helps me manage it. I’ve also found that taking a magnesium supplement daily has helped my mood for most of the month.

      I am not overweight and exercise regularly. While exercise is important, I don’t find a huge difference in my symptoms because of it. I also want to have children in the future but my partner and I aren’t ready yet. So, still not sure what challenges lie ahead in that regard.

      I know what you mean about depression stealing so much life and opportunity from young people like us. I wish you the best with your battle!

  10. Hey girls,

    I am so thankful I found this…I have been struggling with PCOS for years. I haven’t had a normal period since I got it at 11.

    I had no idea it could cause depression, which I have struggled with for most of my life. It makes sense. I know for me other things have behind the depression at some points and I am sure PCOS has exacerbated it at other times.

    However, my faith in Christ and His help has been more than sufficient grace in my weakness. It’s a daily walk to look to Him and focus on Him with faith not fear. It’s a hard walk, but it’s a walk we can all make by the grace of God and encouragement of others.

    I’d like to encourage you cysters to know that I am taking the time to pray for you and know you are not alone.

    I have gone through it all, fear, anger, saddness, weakness, hairiness, self-conciousness, cravings….. Jealousy, discontentment, frustration, cravings, acne, hair loss, pains, cravings…. Oh those cravings! It’s like craving poison.

    None of us are in this alone.

    Take good care of your soul, your mind and your body. Take good care of your loved ones and those around you.

    xo- Kimmy

  11. After years of battling with doctors I’ve finally been given an ultrasound and the result was as expected…PCOS. Since this everything fits together however my depression and anger issues are uncontrollable. I don’t suffer with many symptoms, I’m slim (definitely not over weight) I don’t suffer with excessive hair growth and I have now managed my skin over the years before being diagnosed. However I’m in a place now where I don’t know what to do. I haven’t spoke to anyone, my Mum has mild PCOS and conceived 2 children with no symptoms. However she just thinks I’m a hormonal teenager at 19. My boyfriend thinks I’m a psychotic girlfriend and if thinks don’t improve I know what’s coming next…which doesn’t help my depression. I’m lost and don’t know what to do!

    1. Hi shelby,
      I was diagnosed with pcos a long time ago due to my regular periods. I was slim, no acne but did have more body hair than I would on liked! Anyhow, I suffered with anxiety and depression and mood swings repeatedly over the years. Although I know it’s part of me I have things much more under control now. Many things help. Diet is key! My mum is a carb and chocolate fiend and only recently did I realise how addicted I was to sugar. I can’t explain the difference in my life by reducing these things. You will feel crabby at first but get rid of sugar! It’s evil! Exercise helps too especially a brisk walk outside. Some books really helped especially The Black Dog. It’d set out like a picture book and can help people without depression understand what it means. You could also try herbal supplement macca. It helps treat depression and women’s health issues. Inca warriors ate it before battle as it helps energy. No one thing will make it all better but lots of little things will make a change! Good luck and remember you are not alone. Ps ditch your boyfriend, if he can’t at least try to understand it and help you he is a loser!!!

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